Taking care of your body after baby.
Giving birth is one of the most demanding things your body can go through, which means you’ll notice some (temporary!) changes and discomfort afterward. Here’s more about what to expect just after giving birth, and how to take good care of yourself.
With either a vaginal or C-section delivery, you’ll have what’s called lochia, which is like an extra-heavy menstrual flow made up of blood, bacteria and shed uterine lining. It will appear bright red at first, changing to pink and then whitish over the next few weeks. You’ll likely notice some clots, especially in the days immediately after birth. Do not use tampons for lochia, as they can cause an infection. Call your doctor or midwife if you notice any of the following:
- Lochia that is still bright red four days after birth
- A foul odor
- Fever and chills
- Bleeding that soaks a pad in an hour, or a clot bigger than a golf ball. This could be a postpartum hemorrhage and you’ll need to see a caregiver right away.
If you’re bleeding profusely or feel faint, call 911.
Your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) may be sore and swollen, especially if you experienced any tearing. Try using a cold compress against the area, or warm, shallow baths. After using the toilet, fill your peri-bottle with warm water and cleanse the area over the toilet. Pat dry or gently wipe in a downward motion. If your pain gets worse over time, you notice an unpleasant odor, or have trouble with constipation or diarrhea, call your provider. If you have stitches, they’ll dissolve on their own in two to three weeks.
You may also experience some menstrual-cramp-like pain as your uterus contracts, especially if you’ve given birth before. A heating pad or hot water bottle may bring you some relief, or ask your doctor or midwife about taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.
About two to three days after giving birth, your milk will come in and may cause swollen, engorged breasts. If you’re breastfeeding, do so often to help relieve the engorgement; in a little while your milk supply will adjust to your baby’s needs.
If you’re not planning to breastfeed, try wearing a snug-fitting bra or holding towels tightly against your chest. A cold pack might help, too, as can taking a pain reliever. Avoid anything that triggers milk production, such as nipple stimulation or expressing your milk. If you’re really uncomfortable, you can bend over and dip your breasts into a pan of warm water; after a little while, milk will come out without stimulation.
Hemorrhoids are varicose veins of the rectum and anus, caused by the weight and pressure of your baby during pregnancy and childbirth. Hemorrhoids also result from pushing hard, either during childbirth or a bowel movement. For relief, try cold packs, pads with witch hazel, or a cream as suggested by your provider.
You may feel constipated just after giving birth. Eat plenty of fiber, drink lots of fluids, keep active with light walking, and take an over-the-counter stool softener as recommended by your doctor or midwife. If you feel a bowel movement coming on, don’t hold it back. You may be fearful of it, especially if you have stitches, but holding it will only make the problem worse.
Your bladder has shifted and compressed throughout pregnancy and childbirth, so you may find it harder to urinate in the first several days after birth. Drink lots of fluids and urinate often, even if you don’t really feel the urge. If you feel pain or burning while urinating, or have sudden strong urges to go, you may have a urinary tract infection and should call your provider.
If you’re not breastfeeding, your period will usually return in about four to eight weeks, and may be heavier than normal at first. Moms who breastfeed often get their period back later than that, and when it does return, it may slightly decrease their milk supply. Despite what you may have heard, breastfeeding is not a reliable form of birth control. In any case, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor or midwife about your birth control options at your six-week new mom checkup.
Emotions and Fatigue
Changing hormone levels may give you mood swings, and you might feel more weepy in the days and weeks after giving birth. This is normal and will likely go away on its own. But if you feel worse over time rather than better, or if your blues last longer than a few weeks, call your doctor or midwife. You may be experiencing postpartum depression. You can also find help at our Lytle Center, where staff members specialize in PPD, or visit our community resources page for helpful services near you. If you ever feel like you can’t take care of — or want to harm — yourself or your baby, seek help right away. Call your doctor or one who specializes in postpartum depression.
You’re probably feeling more exhausted than ever before. This is not surprising, given your body’s need to repair itself and your baby’s need for ‘round the clock care and feeding. Give yourself a chance to take it easy. Choose resting over housework, and sweatpants instead of jeans. If anyone offers help, take them up on it, and don’t be shy about asking for help yourself. Make sure you’re getting enough protein, and ask your doctor or midwife about taking an iron supplement.
Other Physical Changes
In the days and weeks after giving birth, fluctuating hormones can also cause things like sweating (especially at night), hair loss (don’t worry, it’ll grow back), fluid retention, dry skin, vaginal dryness, and increased urination. These are all temporary, and you should feel like your pre-baby self in just a few weeks.